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Driving in Brazil

The road conditions in Brazil really vary throughout the country. The state roads are quite well maintained and are excellent. However, the federal and interstate roads are extremely poor because of low maintenance. The areas that are governed by the municipality, signs, shoulders and exits are quite haphazard and confusing. The roads are not very smooth as there are many potholes and uneven surfaces. Many roads have speedbumps which at times are not indicated clearly and are therefore quite dangerous. Outside the big cities, dirt roads are common and can become dangerous to travel on after dark and especially during the rainy season.

The inter-city roads in Brazil are world-renowned as being dangerous and unsafe. A combination of bad driving skills, horrible road conditions and an abundance of trucks makes driving down these roads almost next to impossible. Most of these inter city roads have only two lanes which are forever crowded with trucks. There is no law in brazil which requires truck drivers to make compulsory stops to rest and therefore many drive for long distances. This can prove to be quite dangerous as accidents due to fatigue and drowsiness are common.

Driving age

The minimum age requirement for driving in Brazil is 18 years.

Speed Limits

Speed limits vary depending on where you are driving in Brazil. The speed is measured in kilometers per hour (kph), which might be a bit confusing for someone who’s not used to the metric system. Speed limits in Brazil are:
Urban areas: 60 kmph (40 mph)
Open roads: 120 kmph (74 mph)
In general, speed limits in Brazil are widely ignored and rarely enforced, but it is still important to follow these limits especially because you are driving in a foreign country.
Many roads have radar traps and speed cameras to photograph violators in the act. A ticket is issued if you break speed laws. Be very careful as Brazilians tend to brake suddenly if they spot such a device.

Drinking and Driving

The amount of legally allowed alcohol in the blood is 0.6 mg/ml, which is a bit higher than many other countires.


  • Remember to carry important documentation with you at all times. Documents you should have with you:
    International Driving Permit (IDP) – must be accompanied by a valid driver’s license from your home country.
    Inter-American Driving Permit (IADP) – May be obtained by US residents from AAA offices, and used instead of an International Driving Permit. An IADP should be accompanied by your valid home country driver’s license.
    Driver’s license – If your license does not incorporate a photograph, ensure you carry your passport to validate the license.
    Vehicle Registration
    Owner’s Permission – If the vehicle is not registered in your name, carry a letter from the registered owner giving you permission to drive.
    Safety Belts
    Brazil requires the use of either seatbelts or a safety seat for everyone in the car, both at the front and back.

Driving with Children

Children under 10 years of age are prohibited from travelling in the front seat, and must be seated at the rear with a seatbelt tightly fastened or in a safety seat (depending on the child’s age). The law in Brazil requires car seats for all children under the age of 7.5.

Driving License

In Brazil, a Driver’s license (officially named Carteira Nacional de Habilitação, shortened as CNH and translated as “National Qualification Card”) is required in order to drive cars, buses, trucks and motorcycles. Current CNHs can be used as identity cards in all the national territory. It was formerly called PGU, but in 2008 CONTRAN (Conselho Nacional de Trânsito, translated as “National Transit Council”) overhauled the system, requiring all driver’s license holders to re-register, so they could be grouped in Renach (Registro Nacional de Condutores Habilitados, National Register of Qualified Drivers). Minors, the illiterate and people without an ID card are not allowed to have a CNH. Applicants must pass physical and psychological examinations before being authorized to start the required training. In the psychological examination, the applicant will be either approved or not approved. In the physical examination, the applicant can be approved, approved with restrictions or not approved. Being approved with restrictions means that the person can drive only under certain conditions. One common example is for people suffering from vision impairment, who are required to wear eyeglasses (or other correction mechanisms) while driving.


When a vehicle is spotted (either by a traffic agent, the police or an automated system such as a speeding radar) violating traffic regulations, its owner receives a notification by mail, including details of the violation like its nature and location, the amount due as fine, and proof if available, like pictures taken by radars. Fifteen days after this notification is received, the actual ticket is issued. During these 15 days, the owner can submit a form to inform the traffic authority if they weren’t the one driving the car when the infraction was committed. For example, if Bob lends his car to Paul, and Paul commits an infraction, Bob will receive the notification. He then has to fill the form with Paul’s license information, have Paul sign it and submit it to the traffic authority within 15 days. Then, all fines and other sanctions for that violation will be issued to Paul instead of Bob. Traffic violations in Brazil issue points against the driver’s license. Offenses are divided in four categories: “minor” (3 points), “medium” (4 points), “serious” (5 points) and “very serious” (7 points). The points for an infraction are considered for one year, starting at the day of the offense. If at any time the total score passes 20 points (which means the driver has obtained more than 20 points within one year), the license will be suspended and the local traffic authority will notify the driver, which can enter a defense in the following sixty days. In any case, past these 60 days, the traffic authority will decide the duration of the suspension, which can be 1 to 24 months. Once the suspension period ends and the driver completes an “offender driver reeducation course”, the suspension is terminated.

Information Courtesy of http://www.driving-in.com/brazil/